Editorial: Democrats talk a good game on climate change, just never to Joe Manchin’s face – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
While informed people around the world are working hard to reduce reliance on heavily polluting, global-warming fossil fuels like coal, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is doing the exact opposite. And nobody dares challenge him — especially on the climate-change-averse Democratic side of the aisle — for fear they might upset the most powerful person in the Senate. With votes evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, Manchin’s is effectively the only vote that matters. So he gets to do pretty much what he pleases, even when he deserves to be called out for serious conflicts of interest.
If only Manchin’s decision-making process on major bills came down to thoughtful deliberation about their budget-busting or inflationary impacts. But Manchin’s real concern appears to be the enrichment of Joe Manchin. The New York Times devoted months of research to recently expose Manchin’s multiple business interests in West Virginia and how his political power intersects with those interests.
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The result is a federal lawmaker who is a Democrat in name only and who works directly against the party’s priority mission to save the planet from human-caused environmental degradation. Manchin could easily switch parties without upsetting West Virginia voters. But Capitol Hill Democrats would rather tolerate his self-serving ways than dare suggest he take his filthy coal business and his global-warming politics somewhere else. That’s how badly they need his vote.
In apparent deference to Manchin, President Joe Biden found a way not to mention the words “coal” “carbon” or “fossil fuels” a single time in his March 1 State of the Union address. He briefly mentioned the “climate crisis,” but mainly to promote job creation in the electric-vehicle industry.
In the early 1980s, Manchin devised an ingenious way to earn money not only by supplying a coal-fired generating plant in his hometown with fuel it needed but also to profit from the generating plant’s revenue. Manchin at the same time worked his way up the political ladder, first as a West Virginia state representative, then as governor, working behind the scenes to obtain a pollution permit for his hometown power plant in which he now had a financial interest. He also persuaded his colleagues to give that plant a tax credit.
At the same time, Manchin worked to get rate increases approved, helping boost the plant’s revenues — and, thus, his own personal revenues — by making consumers pay more for their electricity. And the waste coal at the heart of Manchin’s business is so heavily polluting and of such low energy-generating value that reputable companies reject it as trash.
But because Machin’s vote has the ability to scuttle a Supreme Court nomination or hold up just about any other major initiative Biden wants to offer, Democrats have to hold their noses and look the other way. As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it appears, sadly, that the planet will just have to wait.